African American History and Radical Historiography

Edited by Herbert Shapiro
MEP Publications, Minneapolis
Copyright © 1998 by Marxist Educational Press, All rights reserved.

Editor's Introduction cont...

Aptheker has built his scholarly achievements virtually without institutional support, never having held a permanent university position. In response to student demand, he has been granted many temporary academic appointments, beginning with Bryn Mawr in 1969. He has taught at Hostos Community College (CUNY); University of California, Berkeley; and the University of Santa Clara (until a major donor demanded his dismissal). For ten years (beginning in the late 1970s), he taught at the Law School of the University of California, Berkeley, where he created a course entitled Racism and the Law a new area of study then, but widely recognized since. He has been elected a Nonresident Fellow at Harvard University for 1998– 1999.

Throughout his long career Aptheker has produced a steady stream of scholarly works. The many historians who are now engaged in studying the life and thought of W. E. B. Du Bois stand on the shoulders of Aptheker, who for years served as custodian of the Du Bois papers, arranged for their deposit at the University of Massachusetts, and meticulously edited for publication a multivolume set of the Du Bois writings and a three-volume collection of his correspondence. The essays published here reflect the wide influence that Herbert Aptheker has exerted and continues to exert on U.S. scholars. The themes with which the authors are concerned center upon questions of race, class, and gender, and the linkages joining these categories. Several of the authors focus directly upon Aptheker’s own writings, critical where they believe criticism is appropriate, while recognizing the contributions that have made him one of the twentieth century’s foremost historians.

Aptheker is candidly presented as a symbol of the struggle for academic freedom, the Marxist intellectual who excited such fear among a group of historians at Yale University that they would not even tolerate his engagement as a short-term leader of a student-initiated seminar on Du Bois. Aptheker’s career reminds us of the political conformism of the Right and Far Right that did not stop at dispute but sought to destroy careers and altogether exclude radicals from the marketplace of ideas. The collection also includes essays exhibiting the work of scholars who explore sociological and psychological questions suggested by Aptheker’s work. The critical spirit that animates Aptheker’s researches is evident in essays probing a variety of liberation struggles. Above all, this is a collection that seeks to honor Herbert Aptheker by emulating his willingness to go where the evidence leads and his humanistic concern with the aspirations and dreams of the oppressed.

Herbert Shapiro
Department of History
University of Cincinnati

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